Ecola State Park Things to Do

  • Map of Clatsop Loop Trail, Indian Beach Trailhead
    Map of Clatsop Loop Trail, Indian Beach...
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  • Maintenance Road part of trail: wide, gravel
    Maintenance Road part of trail: wide,...
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  • coastal trail part of trail: narrow, steep, forest
    coastal trail part of trail: narrow,...
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Best Rated Things to Do in Ecola State Park

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    Terrible Tilly - The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse

    by glabah Updated Jul 15, 2014

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    Completed in January of 1881 and replaced by an offshore buoy in 1957, the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse was at one time one of the most difficult lighthouses to crew. It is not unusual for waves to crash against the rock with such force they wash over the entire structure (see the photos on the web site listed at the bottom of this tip for one example). During storms the waves are even worse, and there are accounts of the water crashing down into the quarters from the light tower. Removal of crew members due to the mental wear and tear on the people who lived there was fairly routine.

    Constructing it was a challenge, manning it was a chore, and its replacement with a more economical warning pretty much inevitable.

    After a series of several sales, the lighthouse was purchased with the intent of being used as a resting place for urns containing those who wished to have Tillamook Rock be their final resting place. However, the license for this operation ended in 1999 and it does not appear that the light house is again accepting urns just yet.

    While it is still privately owned and the rock it sits on not officially open to receiving visitors as the sea stacks in this area have been declared wildlife habitat, Tillamook Rock is visible from a number of locations in Ecola State Park (and a few locations outside the park). Some of the best locations are Ecola Point, which is the southern parking area and of course the point known as Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Viewpoint. The trail from Indian Beach to the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Viewpoint also has a number of locations where the rock and its lighthouse may be seen.

    In addition to the web site at the bottom of this tip, some good information is also available at Rudy and Alice's Lighthouse Web Site
    http://www.rudyalicelighthouse.net/NWLts/Tillamk/Tillamk.htm

    VirtualTourist member goodfish also pointed out some stories of living on the rock at
    http://lighthouse-news.com/2008/11/18/life-on-the-rock-tillamook-lighthouse/

    Some of the artifacts and stories, as well as a large scale model of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, are on display at the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum, including a description and illustrations of the astounding way people were delivered to the lighthouse.

    Tillamook Rock Lighthouse: known as Terrible Tilly Scale Model of Lighthouse at Cannon Beach Museum Tillamook Rock Lighthouse offshore of Ecola Rocks Tillamook Rock Lighthouse (Left) nearly 1 mile out Tillamook Rock Lighthouse from Ecola Pt Trail
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    Crescent Beach: Rocky Segment of Sand

    by glabah Updated Mar 19, 2012

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    Located just south of Ecola Point, this little beach is a nearly level bit of sand compressed between the rocky outcroppings along the ocean. Be very careful here, as high tide covers a huge portion of the sand, depending on the level of the high tide.

    During the wet times of the year, there is a small waterfall on the north side of beach area.

    The waterfall is visible in photo 4, at the far left. This photo also shows how far the waves reach up the beach at high tide, though they don't show the full extent of a high tide. Just be aware that you shouldn't leave anything here and wander off, expecting it to be there when you get back, should a high tide be coming in.

    Crescent Beach from Ecola Point viewpoint Crescent Beach is Accessed from Trail at Restrooms Detail View of Crescent Beach and it Rocks Detail View of Crescent Beach and Waterfall (Left)
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    Indian Beach - Narrow but Slightly Clear of Rocks

    by glabah Updated Mar 19, 2012

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    Somewhat north of the Ecola Point picnic area and viewpoints is the parking lot for Inidan Beach. This the the furthest north in the park it is possible to drive without a state parks maintenance vehicle.

    There are several picnic tables here, but there are not very many of them. If your plan is to sit in the sun and eat lunch, if it is a busy weekend with sunlight you will have a difficult time finding a place.

    Naturally, one of the main attractions is the beach itself, which is somewhat larger and much more free of large rocks than is Crescent Beach.

    This is also the closest parking area to the park camping facilities, which require approximatley 1.75 miles (3.0 km) of hiking to access. The location at the camping area is also the Tillamook Rock Viewpoint. The trail from the Indian Beach area to the campground and the Tillamook Rock viewpoint is actually a loop: the maintenance road forms one part of the trail loop and a rugged narrow trail somewhat closer to the edge of the cliff forms the other piece of the loop.

    The restrooms here are pit toilets, so I suggest using the restrooms back at the Ecola viewpoint parking lot if a lack of running water is an issue.

    The beach itself is accessed from a staircase that is hidden in the trees near the restroom building, on the north side of the parking lot.

    The beach itself is reasonably wide at low tide, but at a higher tide most of the sand is covered, leaving only the rocky gravel section of the beach exposed - thus it is best to visit the beach at low tide. Several streams tumble down the steep slope and enter the ocean here at the beach, so that getting from one part of the beach to the other will require that you get your feet wet.

    In addition to being able to drive here on the paved road, a narrow trail winds along the edge of the cliff, connecting Indian Beach with the Ecola viewpoint parking area. The distance from the Ecola Point parking area to Indian Beach is approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) one way.

    The beach offers a reasonably good view of the series of rocks known as "Sea Lion Rocks" though they are somewhat far away and it is really best to view them from here with some sort of telephoto equipment.

    As the beach itself is somewhat clear of large rocks there are those select few that do bring their surf boards here and get out in the water that way.

    This area can be very crowded with people on summer weekends, and the parking area extends very far back into the forest in order to accommodate the sheer number of vehicles.

    Indian Beach has Several Picnic Tables Indian Beach looking West Indian Beach from the Trail up the Hill Gull Begs for Food from Visitors at a Picnic Table Detail View of Sea Lion Rocks from Indian Beach
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    Sea Lion Rocks: Can't Visit, but Enjoy the View

    by glabah Updated Jun 17, 2012

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    While they are named the Sea Lion Rocks and while they are occasionally visited by sea lions, the fact is that these rocks have been set aside as a part of a national wildlife refuge because of the bird life that inhabits them every spring.

    Miles upon miles off the coast, the ocean is inhabited by thousands upon thousands of birds that never come to shore, execpt to breed. Such birds as murres, auklets, storm petrels and various others are almost never seen by people today due to their home on the waves well off the shore and because most people travel over the ocean by air these days. However, they do form an important part of the marine ecosystem and thus their nesting habitat on these rocks has been preserved.

    In the early 1900s, many thousands of these birds were killed every year simply because people wanted something to shoot at, and decided the nesting birds on these very difficult to access rocks would make good target practice.

    Thus, the establishment of some of the rocks on the Oregon coast as wildlife refuges, so that the birds that seek refuge on these rocks would not become extinct due to the irresponsible nature of a few target shooters. As the first of those wildlife refuges was Three Arch Rocks, please see my Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge Page for a bit more about this.

    While it is not possible to access the rocks, and in fact doing so is extremely dangerous due to the severity of the rock formations and the waves that hit them with extreme violence, it is possible to appreciate their amazing formations (the outermost one of which has a fairly spectacular arch in it). Views of these rocks may be obtained from Ecola Point, where there is a wooden walkway with a small viewpoint at the end. Cannon beach is somewhat far away but offers a view of the rock formations at a different angle. Indian Beach offers a view from the north that allows a look right through the arch on the outermost rock.

    For a little more history about this area, try to look for the book titled "Where Rolls the Oregon" or one of its more modern reprints. This gives a little more information about the process and concern over bird life on the sea rocks off the Oregon Coast.

    Your best bet to view the bird life is to visit in May or June, bring some good telephoto equipment (good binoculars, camera telephoto lenses, or a good spotting scope and tripod that won't vibrate much in the wind) and take a look at the surface of the rocks. For an example of what to look for, see photo 5, which shows some American Brown Pelicans perched along the knife edge of one of the outer rocks. To the far left side it is possible to see a black bird (an auklet or a murre of some sort most likely) swimming in the water as well. I have A Travelogue of Photos of the Rocks from June of 2012 that shows the bird life that finds these rocks of vital importance

    Sea Lion Rocks off Ecola Point offer Bird Habitat Detail View of Outermost of Sea Lion Rocks View of Sea Lion Rocks from Ecola Point viewpoint View of Sea Lion Rocks from Indian Beach Pelicans on Knife-Edge of one of the Rocks
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    THE VIEW

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    If you just come for the 'view', that's cool. You will recognize it when you see it. It is like Old Faithful in Yellowstone, the view of Yosemite Valley from the entrance tunnel or looking out over the Grand Canyon from the South Rim - you have seen it before. But having 'seen' it before doesn't detract from your experience here. For one thing, the scene constantly changes - tides go in and out; light and clouds constantly change the nature of the overall drama. I have been here maybe twenty time and never tire of the magic.

    There is a large parking lot just down from the entrance booth - which is reached after several miles of a slow winding road which climbs up and down through primeval forests. A rest area can be found off to the southeast side of the parking lot. From the west end, a short trail drops over to a cliff-side and turns west for another hundred meters or so ending at a wooden overlook above the Sea Lion Rocks. The perfect 'view' can be found anywhere along the way, 'perfection' depending upon all sorts of factors not always under your control.

    The View from Ecola Viewpoint This view is making someone hungry!
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    SEA LION ROCKS

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The Ecola Viewpoint trail ends on a wooden deck overlooking a set of sea stacks rising out of the waters below known as the Sea Lion Rocks. From this distance, sea lions being tan in color when on the rocks, are not always obvious. It is easy to mistake them for just more bird guano, but if you can't see the lions then you can see quite a variety of sea bird life. These rocks, like all other sea stacks along the Oregon Coast are nationally protected wildlife preserves. Looking further at sea you have a good view of the old Tillamook Head Lighthouse sitting a mile offshore on its lonely perch.

    Sea Lion Rocks from the end of the trail Find the sea lions!
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    CRESCENT BEACH

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Immediately south of the Ecola Viewpoint parking lot, a trail descends to a large beach lying just north of Cannon Beach - Crescent Beach. My last visit here was with VT's own Mirliya who hails from Turkey. My explanation to her about how the beach got its name had do do with a homesick Turkish sailor's fondness for his nation's flag - but luckily for Dilek, I don't think she understood my entire theory.

    Crescent Beach is thought to have also been the furthest south that Lewis and Clark reached on the Oregon Coast during their short time here in 1806.

    Waves rolling ashore at Crescent Beach Mystical even on a grey day!
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    The Park

    by GuthrieColin Updated Jul 31, 2008

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    Ecola State Park was named by William Clark from the Louis and Clark expedition. ‘Ekoli’ is a Chinook word meaning whale. The local Chinook peoples explained to the expedition in 1806 that a beached whale was located on what is now Indian Beach.
    The park itself boasts 9 miles of excellent Pacific Coast shoreline and 8 miles of the OCT (Oregon Coast Trail). Of that shoreline Indian Beach and Crescent Beach flank the main viewpoint at Ecola Point and provide excellent places for tide pool exploration.

    Stacks Through the Trees Trails in the park
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    Crescent and Indian Beach

    by GuthrieColin Updated Jul 31, 2008

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    The hike to Crescent Beach is about 1 1/2 miles and the hike to Indian Beach is a similar 1 1/4 miles. Both beaches are excellent for tide pools.
    These tide pools are common along the whole coast area and are great for the kids. I would imagine that Indian beach is less crowded since it is away from the main day use attraction which is the excellent view to Cannon and Crescent Beach.

    Indian Beach Crescent Beach
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    Sea Lion Rocks

    by GuthrieColin Updated Aug 28, 2008

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    I didn't see any Sea Lions at the 'Sea Lion Rocks.' I would certainly say that if you want to see Sea Lions you would stand a much better chance at the Sea Lion Caves near Florence, OR.
    The rocks are pretty interesting and typify the sea stacks that are so common along the Oregon Coast. I did see many birds flying around though and if you are into watching noisy birds frolic around that may be enough for you.

    Sea Lion Rocks From Trail Sea Lion Rocks One of the Rocks
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    Tillamook Rock Light House

    by GuthrieColin Updated Aug 28, 2008

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    Tillamook rock lighthouse is one of the most spectacular places for a lighthouse to be constructed. Native Americans believed that spirits resided under the rock in tunnels. At any rate this lighthouse lives a fragile existence on its perch.
    Long sense abandoned, construction of the lighthouse is a story in itself. In 1879 laborers from outside the area were brought in to construct the lighthouse. Locals thought that the endeavor was foolish and that the seas were far too rough at the location. They were probably right.
    In Jan 1880 seas crashed above the crest of the rock and ripped the construction buildings apart. The workers waited 16 days for more provisions and then continued work. The lighthouse was completed in just 2 years.
    Manning the lighthouse was another matter, nicknamed “terrible tilly” it became a living legend. The conditions were horrendous and when storms sent surges over the rock they often sent water cascading from the top of the tower into the building from above.
    The lighthouse is now listed on the national register of historic places and appears as a “ghostly looking structure”

    Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Tillamook Rock Lighthouse
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    INDIAN BEACH

    by mtncorg Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Indian Beach is a couple of miles north of the Ecola Viewpoint. This is a haven for surfers and kayakers. It is a great place to learn how to get your boat in and out of the surf zone - at least in the summer - besides offering a great opportunity for the would-be kayaker to explore the magical headlands of Tillamook Head. The beach is also the start of the Tillamook Head Trail - now part of the Oregon Coastal Hiking Trail - which takes you up and over Tillamook Head to Seaside to the north.

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    TILLAMOOK HEAD TRAIL

    by mtncorg Updated Dec 29, 2008

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    The road ends at Indian Beach, but you can continue on foot over Tillamook Head on to Seaside. At one point you are about a thousand feet above the ocean, but be forewarned that there aren't many grand views on this trail and the trail can be an exercise in bog walking - reminds me a bit of some of the walks I have taken in Scotland - at times. If you want better trails, then head south to Oswald West State Park or over to Saddle Mountain.

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    Ecola Point: The Usual First Stop and Famous Views

    by glabah Written Mar 20, 2012

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    As noted on my introduction page for Ecola State Park, the park features one of the most common vistas in Oregon tourist brochures, post cards, etc: the view of Haystack Rock and associated minor sea stack formations looking south from Ecola State Park.

    This view and more is what you come to on Ecola Point, which is the most southern parking area in the park, and features a restroom with running water and flush toilets, plus a significant number of picnic tables and other facilities. It also is a potential trailhead for use in gaining access to Crescent Beach, and from here trails go north to Indian Beach, the Tillamook Rock Viewpoint, and ultimately the city of Seaside. Southward, the trail system goes as far as Cannon Beach.

    The south side of the picnic area and viewpoints include not only the famous views of Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock, but also views southwest. While much of that is open ocean, there is a paved trail ending at a boardwalk that has a view of the Sea Lion Rocks (where the primary attraction is actually their use as a sea bird nesting ground).

    To the northwest, Ecola Point also offers views of Tillamook Rock and the infamous Terrible Tilly light house, which is one mile off shore and actually some two miles from Ecola Point. (It looks closer than that, but that is because Tillamook Rock, and the waves which hit it, are a lot larger than they appear at a distance.)

    There is a picnic shelter at Ecola Point (see photo 3) but in order to shelter people from the wind and rain it lacks windows facing the ocean. If it is a nice enough day to not want shelter from the Ocean you will be able to use one of the many picnic tables scattered around Ecola Point. If, on the other hand, it is a bad enough day you want the shelter, you will want the shelter to not have windows facing the ocean due to the strong winds and water coming from that direction.

    Some of the picnic tables are scattered into locations that are not openly visible from the parking area or the most heavily used trails, including one that is located at the end of a very narrow paved pathway that runs to the left of two benches halfway down the hill and facing Tillamook Rock.

    Ecola State Park, and Ecola Point in particular, can be very busy on weekends. This is especially true of summer weekends with good weather and on such weekends the earlier you arrive generally the less crowded it will be.

    Platform for Viewing South and West View out to Tillamook Rock to the Northwest Picnic Shelter has No View but Protection Looking South from Picnic Tables and Viewpoint
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    Park Entrance to Ecola Point Trail

    by glabah Written May 28, 2012

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    Leading from the park entrance road at the southern entrance to Ecola State Park northward to Ecola Point, this trail is not a huge amount of elevation gain, but there are many short but steep sections to it, which make it difficult and slow to negotiate. Some places have staircases where the trail had to be built steep, but vandalism and weather have removed significant parts of the stairs and shifted them so that they are difficult to use. These may also be slippery when wet.

    There is a division in the trail approximately 3/4 of a mile (a little over 1 km) south of Ecola Point. This division is where the stub-end trail down to Crescent Beach branches off of this trail. There is approximately 3/4 of a mile more to get down to Crescent Beach, as it is a steep and difficult trip from there down the hill, and coming back up it isn't very easy.

    The trail has one significant viewpoint approximately 1/3 of a mile south of Ecola Point (see main photo / photo 3) which provides a view of Ecola Point as well as south to Cannon Beach and some of the rocks off its beach.

    The trail crosses a number of small spring watercourses, so in the spring the trail is soft, wet, and muddy in these locations. Some of them are difficult to negotiate.

    Much of the trail passes through second growth forest that has been allowed to become somewhat old-growth like in its ecology (see photo 2). You might see some wildlife through here, especially woodpeckers.

    The southern part of the trail splits with Ecola Park Road right at the southern border of the state park. The trail sign and note of its presence is downhill from the road, and therefore is almost completely invisible from the road, if you are driving. See photo 1.

    From the Ecola Point parking area, the trail heads south from the area near the flush toilet restroom building at the southeast corner of the parking area. It is very clearly marked (see photo 4). From here, it heads up the hill to the road, where it crosses the park manager's driveway, runs beside the road in a narrow strip (see photo 5) for a very short distance, and then leaves the side of the road to peruse its own route along the hillside. The departure point for the trail is immediately to the left of the 15 mph sign seen in photo 5.

    As noted in my Getting Around in Ecola State Park Tip, the road from the park entrance south into Cannon Beach is very narrow, and people drive far too fast for the type of road it is. It is possible to walk to this trail from Cannon Beach, but be very careful, and be prepared to jump out of the way of vehicles that are not paying attention to where they are going. The south end of this trail simply empties onto Ecola Park Road once it gets to the city border, without so much as a wide spot in the road on which to walk.

    Viewpoint approximately 1/3 mile south of Ecola Pt Southern Entrance, Cannon Beach - Ecola Pt Trail Much of Trail goes through Coastal Forest Entrance to Trail from Ecola Point Restrooms Trail runs Beside Road in Wide Spot for Brief Way
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